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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Boston Red Sox

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After missing the playoffs in 2010, the Red Sox were on a mission to ensure they would be in the postseason in 2011. With Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford -- two of the offseason's highest-profile acquisitions -- leading the way, the Red Sox strolled into September with an 83-52 record and a 1.5-game lead in the American League East.

The Red Sox would win only seven more games the rest of the way, and they lost out on the wild card spot on the last day of the regular season. Instead of basking in postseason glory, the Red Sox have had to contend with an offseason of disappointment, a scandal revolving around the consumption of fried chicken and beer in the clubhouse, and a relative dearth of splashy roster moves.

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While the team has not reeled in any player of the magnitude of Gonzalez or Crawford, they have been busy in recent months nonetheless. Manager Terry Francona was let go, general manager Theo Epstein left for the Cubs, and Bobby Valentine and Ben Cherington, respectively, replaced them. Then Cherington reworked the bullpen, bringing in Andrew Bailey as the team's new closer (replacing departed free agent Jonathan Papelbon) and Mark Melancon as his set-up man. Ryan Sweeney came over from Oakland along with Bailey and will take over as the starting right fielder.

The Red Sox could be finished with their offseason roster moves, but they are far from done with setting their opening day lineup. Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie shared the shortstop position last season, but both have been dealt away with no clear replacement. Nick Punto, signed as a free agent in December, and Mike Aviles are the top candidates to win the job. Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz are set as the team's top three starting pitchers, but the rest of the rotation is up for grabs. Former set-up reliever Daniel Bard, veteran swingman Alfredo Aceves, offseason pick-ups Aaron Cook, Carlos Silva, Vicente Padilla and Clayton Mortensen, and perennial starter-in-waiting Andrew Miller are all in the mix to fill out the rotation's final two spots. Finally, the Red Sox may need to replace Crawford for a few weeks, as he underwent wrist surgery in January. Cody Ross was signed shortly after Crawford's surgery, and he will likely earn some starts as a fill-in.

The Yankees and Rays arguably got stronger this offseason, so with the Red Sox making few impact moves and still having question marks heading into spring training, they may face an uphill battle trying to avoid a third straight year without a playoff appearance. Should Major League Baseball move ahead with its expanded playoff format, the Red Sox may have a chance. Then again, if Crawford can bounce back from a difficult first year in Boston, or if the team can manage to solidify the rotation in the absence of departed Tim Wakefield and injured John Lackey (Tommy John surgery), they may still manage to get into the postseason, even without the help of an additional spot.

Sleeper ... Ryan Sweeney, OF

The arrival of Sweeney as the Red Sox's new starting right fielder was met with reactions ranging from yawns to outrage, but few were excited about the development. As a producer of empty batting averages around .290 in Oakland, Sweeney had done little to establish himself over the past few seasons. However, the line-drive hitting outfielder was penalized by playing his home games in Oakland, but in Fenway Park, Sweeney gets a double-hitter's nirvana as his new home park. If Sweeney was capable of producing a 30-plus doubles season in Oakland, 35 or 40 doubles would not be out of the question in Boston. He still doesn't possess enough home run power to be valuable in Rotisserie leagues, but Sweeney could be a surprise contributor in Head-to-Head formats, where he would be worth a late-round flier or waiver wire pickup.

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Injury-risk sleeper ... Clay Buchholz, SP

Coming off a 2010 campaign in which he won 17 games and compiled a 2.33 ERA, Buchholz was overrated in many quarters heading into 2011. He benefited from an ultra-low home run per flyball rate (5.8 percent) in '10, and sure enough, he gave up long balls more frequently last year. After posting a more modest ERA and missing half of the season with a stress fracture in his back, Buchholz is likely underrated this spring. By all accounts, Buchholz is healthy again, and he could post an ERA in the mid-3.00s, just as he did a year ago. With mediocre strikeout and walk rates, it would be easy to underrate the veteran of five seasons, but he consistently gets outs by inducing grounders and avoiding hard liners. While many owners may pass him over in favor of pitchers who accomplished more last year, Buchholz is still capable of producing like a No. 4 Fantasy starter, and he should be drafted accordingly.

Bust ... Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C

Saltalamacchia had shown the potential to hit for some power in the minor leagues, but prior to last season, he hadn't really delivered on it in the majors. His pace of 16 home runs in 358 at-bats was far better than any ratio he had put up previously, and particularly with a high percentage of short-distance homers, it seems unlikely that he will equal it this year. Salty's 23 doubles were also out of character, though some of those can be attributed to playing home games at Fenway Park. Still, owners should expect a downturn in Saltalamacchia's power and run-production stats this year, which would render him as a low-end option in standard mixed leagues at best.

2012 Boston Red Sox Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Jacoby Ellsbury CF 1 Jon Lester LH
2 Dustin Pedroia 2B 2 Josh Beckett RH
3 Adrian Gonzalez 1B 3 Clay Buchholz RH
4 Kevin Youkilis 3B 4 Alfredo Aceves RH
5 David Ortiz DH 5 Daniel Bard RH
6 Carl Crawford LF Alt Aaron Cook RH
7 Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Ryan Sweeney RF CL Andrew Bailey RH
9 Nick Punto SS SU Mark Melancon RH
Top bench options RP Bobby Jenks RH
R Mike Aviles IF RP Franklin Morales LH
R Cody Ross OF RP Matt Albers RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Will Middlebrooks 23 3B Triple-A Triple-A
Middlebrooks hit for power in the Eastern League, which is no mean feat. He will need to prove himself in Triple-A, but a promotion to Boston could happen late in 2012.
2 Ryan Lavarnway 24 C Majors Triple-A
Lavarnway is a flyball hitter like Saltalamacchia, but long-term, he should hit with more power and for a higher average. Could steal Salty's job this year.
3 Xander Bogaerts 19 SS Class A Class A
Bogaerts has impressive power for a shortstop, though he may not stay at the position as he progresses through the minors. Still several years away.
4 Anthony Ranaudo 22 SP Class A Double-A
Ranaudo is unlikely to appear in the majors this season, but he could contend for a rotation spot in 2013. He is a worthwhile target in long-term keeper leagues.
5 Matt Barnes 21 SP DNP Class A
The Red Sox chose Barnes with the 19th pick overall in the 2011 amateur draft. The UConn product could rise quickly through the system, though Fantasy owners are unlikely to see him in Boston this year.
Best of the rest: Alex Wilson, SP; Jose Iglesias, SS; Blake Swihart, C; Bryce Brentz, OF; Brandon Jacobs, OF; Garin Cecchini, 3B; Jackie Bradley, OF; Sean Coyle, 2B; Henry Owens, SP; Brandon Workman, SP; Stolmy Pimentel, SP; Christian Vazquez, C; Kolbrin Vitek, 3B; Junichi Tazawa, RP; Lars Anderson, 1B.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
White Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija willing to listen to long-term deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:32 pm ET) New White Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija's agent, Mark Rodgers said Sunday he and his client "owe it to Chicago to consider an offer" on a long-term contract, according to Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio.

However, Rodgers also said they would need to see how things go for at least half of a season before deciding whether to stay with the club.

Samardzija was traded to Chicago in the offseason from Oakland and has one-year remaining on his current contract.

Samardzija finished 2014 with a 7-13 record between the Cubs and Athletics, posting a 2.99 ERA with 202 strikeouts in 219 2/3 innings.


Scott Boras: Andruw Jones hopes to return to majors in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:18 pm ET) Agent Scott Boras said outfielder Andruw Jones wants to return to the majors for another season in 2015 and that at least two teams are interested in signing him as a designated hitter.

Jones has spent the last two seasons playing in Japan. In his major-league career, Jones totaled 434 home runs and 1,289 RBI.


Royals' Luke Hochevar nearing return from Tommy John surgery
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12:00 pm ET) Royals pitcher Luke Hochevar has been able to throw off a mound and expects to soon be at the full strength, reports The Kansas City Star.

Hochevar is recovering from Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss the 2014 season and said he expects to be at full strength once spring training is underway.

"I'm conditioning my arm," Hochevar said. "Once spring training comes around they're going to monitor me for a little while, but once they cut me loose I become a regular guy again."

In 2013, Hochevar produced a 1.92 ERA in 58 games. While Hochevar said he's looking forward to returning, he wants to be cautious with his body.

"Hopefully, I'm ready in two weeks," Hochevar said. "But you never know and I'm not going to put a timetable on it. I'm going to listen to my body. I need to look long term, not just career-wise but season-wise. Me on the shelf is no good. If it takes me an extra two weeks, a month, whatever it is, I need to be mindful of that."


Report: Padres 'in touch' with Phillies regarding Cole Hamels
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:09 am ET) The Padres are "in touch" with the Phillies in an attempt to land pitcher Cole Hamels, FOX Sports reports.

The Padres have made plenty of upgrades across the roster since general manager A.J. Heller took over, and it's possible they don't have the ammunition to land the Philadelphia ace in a deal. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week that he didn't expect Hamels to be traded before the start of the season. Hamels went 9-9 with a 2.46 ERA and 198 strikeouts in 204 2/3 innings in 2014.


Report: Orioles sign Mark Hendrickson to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) The Orioles have signed Mark Hendrickson to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training, CSNBaltimore.com reports.

Hendrickson, who last pitched in the majors in 2011, spent 2014 with York of the independent Atlantic League, posting a 1.54 ERA and 34:11 K:BB ratio in 52 2/3 innings over 55 appearances.


Rangers' Matt Harrison expects to open season on 60-day DL
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison said Saturday that he expects to open the season on the 60-day disabled list as he continues to recover from spinal fusion surgery, the Dallas Morning News reports.

"My job is to just get as healthy as I can and get myself right so I don’t have something happen like it did last year when I tried to come back," Harrison said. "I’m just going to focus on that and get ready to contribute whenever it may be."

Harrison is dealing with some stiffness in his right side, which will cause him to throw from a distance of 90 feet for a second consecutive week rather than progress to 105 feet. He hopes that he'll get his hips to rotate more and loosen up with more stretching and more throws from the 90-foot distance.


Report: Rays sign Ronald Belisario to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) The Rays have signed pitcher Ronald Belisario to a minor-league deal with an invitiation to spring training, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Belisaro made 62 appearances with the White Sox in 2014, posting a 4-8 record, 5.56 ERA and 47:18 K:BB ratio in 66 1/3 innings. He'll compete for a bullpen spot during the spring.


Dodgers SP Zack Greinke hasn't decided whether to opt out
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke said Saturday that he's yet to decide whether to opt out of his contract at the end of next season but added, "There's not really better options anywhere besides here," the Los Angeles Times reports.

Greinke is set to make $23 million in 2015, and he's due another $71 million over the following three seasons if he remains under his current contract. The Dodgers said earlier this offseason that they wouldn't discuss a contract extension with the pitcher during the winter.

Greinke went 17-8 with a 2.71 ERA and 207:43 K:BB ratio in 202 1/3 innings in 2014.


Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez hoping to bounce back in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez can't wait to get on the field and get past the 2014 season.

"I can’t wait," Jimenez said at Saturday’s FanFest event. "Whatever happened in 2014 is in the past. There's nothing I can do about it now. I can just look forward and now I’m going to do everything in spring training to get myself ready the best I can for the season and help the team."

Jimenez, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal with Baltimore in 2014, went 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA in 125 1/3 innings pitched. 

"It was pretty hard, coming in with a new team and signing a contract like that and not to do what everyone is expecting you to do, it’s hard," Jimenez said. "It’s hard not to be there for the team, but regardless what happened, I fought a lot. I think I was trying to find a way to survive to be there for the team and do whatever I can do the best. We got really far. I didn’t help a lot, but I tried to do whatever I could with whatever I had."


Royals' Alex Gordon plans to take it slow in recovery
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Royals outfielder Alex Gordon is still recovering from his wrist surgery this offseason and plans to take it slow in his rehab.

"We really don’t have a timetable," Gordon said. "We’re just going to see how it feels. Obviously, it’s spring training. So we don’t want to rush anything. If it feels good, we’ll be aggressive with it. But if it’s not feeling good, we’ll take it slow."

Manager Ned Yost wants to continue to take things slow with Gordon.
"We’ll just take it slow," Yost said. "We’ll see how he feels. We’ll play him one day. Then we’ll give him a day off. Play him another day, five or six innings, then give him a day off. We’ll just see how he’s doing."
Gordon hit .266 in 2014 with 19 home runs and 74 RBI.

 
 
 
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